When the world feels a frightening place
I sent these words to everyone who's signed up to receive emails from me and the response has been so positive that I wanted to share it here so more people could read and hopefully find help in it.
The news and social media have been filled with reports on the horrific explosion at the Arena in Manchester on Monday night. I want to share some thoughts on how to manage the anxiety, upset and fear that we're all feeling after an act of such bewildering horror.
I know that many of you are feeling scared, angry and fearful, even guilty that you're safe in your homes, not directly involved in the devastation. You're continuing to follow the news and posts on social media because to turn away from them would be like denying other people's pain and the cruelty of the world, wouldn't it?
It's completely natural to feel like this. But going over and over the news reports when all it's doing is increasing your own anxiety and upset isn't helpful to anyone. If reading, watching and listening to the reports spurs you into taking action to make a positive difference in Manchester or in your local community than that's a positive effect of continuing to take in the news.
Learn about the wonderful acts of kindness, compassion and love demonstrated by those who treated the injured, who drove many miles to get the stranded back to safety, who shared their homes with those who couldn't get to their own, and let it inspire you to take action to demonstrate care and kindness in your neighbourhood.
It's okay to feel overwhelmed by the fear and upset. You'll be in a better position to love and care for your family, friends and community, to demonstrate compassion, if you take care of yourself by stepping away from social media and the news for periods of time. It's important to stay informed but when all the reports are doing is increasing your anxiety and overwhelm, with no helpful purpose, it's time to take a break and to reconnect with people offline.
I wrote a blog post about dealing with overwhelm like this last June and, much as I wish it wasn't, it's just as relevant today. You can read the full post here, these are the key points:
- limit your time on social media – if it's fuelling your overwhelm, take a break
- take a few deeps breaths in and all the way out – when we're tense we only use the top part of our lungs to breathe so focus on breathing in all the way down to your belly and breathing all the way out
- challenge your thoughts – when the rumours, the what ifs and the what nexts start racing through your mind, look for the facts and what's real in the present right now, not what you're imagining in the future
- go for a walk – get outside, in nature if possible, and pay attention to what you can see, hear, smell and feel to get you out of your head
- spend time with others – withdrawing can increase feelings of fear rather than make you feel safe so connect with friends and family, show an act of kindness to a neighbour
- distract yourself – if you still feel gripped by your anxiety try to distract yourself from your worrying thoughts with an absorbing task, reading a book or playing music
- remember the basics – even if you don't feel like it keep yourself nourished with food and water and don't scrimp on sleep
- go gently on yourself – berating yourself about how upset you are won't help, you're allowed to feel how you're feeling, talk to yourself as you would your best friend
These words are true for what's happening right now and for any time in the future when events feel overwhelming.
If this is something you find helpful please save it to your phone or desktop, print it out and pin it up to remind yourself, and share it with anyone you think needs to read it too.
Remember that you can better care for and support your loved ones and the community around you if you take care of yourself and your own mental health.